What is this ship that France is sending off the coast of Gaza?

What is this ship that France is sending off the coast of Gaza?

Tonnerre in 2018 (Official US Navy page/Flickr)

It is called Tonnerre and is equipped with a small hospital, but it is also one of the most important assault ships of the French Navy.

While in Cairo, Egypt, on October 25, French President Emmanuel Macron said that France had sent a naval ship off the Gaza Strip to “Hospital support» Palestinians struggle to continue working due to lack of fuel, water and medical supplies. The ship in question isn’t exactly a “hospital ship”: it is TonerOne of the most important and largest attack ships of the French Navy.

The decision came after Macron’s visit this week to Israel, the West Bank and Jordan and can be read as… Answer The French president addressed those who accused him in recent weeks of pursuing an overly pro-Israel policy.

However, the use of such an important vessel has been witnessed by many, Included Le Monde, the main French newspaper, as a direct intervention by France in the conflict between Israel and Hamas, with consequences that are still unclear: the ship is equipped with advanced communications and interception equipment that could provide French intelligence with valuable information. If the situation in the area deteriorates further, it could also be used to evacuate many French citizens living in the area, especially from Lebanon.

Tonnerre, which means “thunder” in Italian, is an amphibious helicopter carrier Mistral classAny ship capable of transporting and landing military units with their equipment on enemy territory, even in places where anchoring is difficult (a famous military operation of this type was the Normandy landings). a Last article From the news site Politician He describes it as a “floating village”: it is 32 meters wide and 199 meters long (about the equivalent of two football fields) and is capable of transporting more than 21,000 tons. It accommodates 16 helicopters, 60 armored vehicles, 13 tanks, small boats for docking and evacuation, various types of weapons such as machine guns and small missiles, and up to 900 soldiers.

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The ship also includes a medical facility that includes two operating rooms and 69 beds, equivalent to a hospital for a city with a population of 25,000 people, and works to perform surgical operations as close as possible to the combat zone. Given the current humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip, the French contribution will be no more than symbolic (Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City, the largest hospital in the Strip, has 1,500 beds), but its arrival will be useful in any case. To relieve pressure on Palestinian medical teams. In his announcement on Wednesday, Macron he added France will send a plane loaded with medical equipment and supplies to Egypt, to transport them to the Gaza Strip.

In addition to the approximately 200 people who normally make up the crew, Tonnerre left Toulon carrying an army combat unit with all its equipment, which included armored vehicles and logistical trucks.

Mistral-class assault ships, such as Tonnerre, were built in the early 2000s and have been used in numerous French and NATO operations, such as the French military operation in Mali in 2013, but also in the evacuation of French and European citizens from the East. Middle. During the conflict between Israel and Hezbollah in 2006. Tonner was used in Lebanon in 2020 after a major explosion destroyed the port of Beirut and France supplied the country with food supplies and building materials.

The ship is expected to reach the waters of the island of Cyprus, which is located northwest of the coasts of Israel and Palestine, within three or four days. There it will join two smaller French ships already in the area: Surcouf, A Lafayette class With about 150 soldiers from the French Navy and a helicopter, the Alsace A Multi-mission frigate There are 130 people on board. Surcouf was already present in the region as part of France’s permanent intelligence and surveillance mission in the international operation against the Islamic State (ISIS). Instead, the Alsace ship arrived a few days ago: it is one of the most modern ships of the French Navy and specializes in anti-aircraft defense, as it is equipped with short- and medium-range missiles that can protect against air attacks and some types of aircraft. Missiles and drones.

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– Read also: Israel still does not know what to do with the invasion of the Gaza Strip

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